A New Jersey school tried to be cool and failed miserably with an insensitive “party like it’s 1776” senior prom theme. The idea sent shockwaves through the Cherry Hill community and upset African American students who quickly noted that enslaved people weren’t part of any “party” during the Revolutionary War.
Cherry Hill High School East Principal Dennis Perry issued an apology after the error, saying that it was “irresponsible” for him and prom organizers to overlook historical facts that “not all communities can celebrate what life was like in 1776,” especially since Black people were enslaved at that time, reports Newsweek.
The prom was set to take place at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. President Ronald Reagan signed the Constitution Heritage Act of 1988 establishing the center to “disseminate information about the United States Constitution on a nonpartisan basis in order to increase the awareness and understanding of the Constitution among the American people.”
But when students saw the phrase on their senior prom tickets, they felt sidelined.
“Today, I learned that members of our school community were offended by a statement written on our Senior Prom ticket,” Perry wrote in the Friday letter.
“I especially apologize to our African American students, whom I have let down by not initially recognizing the inappropriateness of this wording. You can expect that we will do better as a school community to produce well thought out, appropriate communications.”
Camden County NAACP East chapter President Lloyd Henderson told the Courier-Post that the school’s omission was typical of the Cherry Hill community.
It is “another example that the culture at Cherry Hill East is one where the African American students’ needs are not considered along with the rest of the school. However, I do take some solace in the fact that Mr. Perry immediately recognized and acknowledged the insensitivity of the comment,” Henderson said.
Other community leaders applauded Perry for his efforts to make things right.
“I believe that Perry handled the situation well,” said Danny Elmore, a vice president for the Cherry Hill African American Civic Association.